My revelation yesterday has prompted a number of people to say I’ve sold out. In fact, one commenter went so far as to say I will soon go on to “a full time job reviewing carbon bottle cages.” And that really made me angry. Why? Because that person clearly has never used a nice, high-quality carbon fiber bottle cage.
A surprising number of people pay little attention to their choice of bottle cage. But the fact is, most cages are too loose or too tight. For example, how often have you ridden over a rough patch of pavement, only to have your bottles eject themselves from your cages like pilots from a crashing fighter jet? And who hasn’t reached for a bottle only to have to pull and twist to free it, like trying to wrest a rawhide bone from a Rottweiler’s jaws? I know I’ve crashed innumerable times because I came into a turn at speed while pulling at the bottle on my seat tube with both hands.
Enter the Elite Custom Carbon bottle cage. At only $124.99, this cage is engineered with astounding precision, and boasts the kind of manufacturing tolerances that make a Swiss watch seem like a Play-Doh sundial sculpted by a two year-old with his feet. I was lucky enough to test this supermax of cages. So if beverage retention is as important to you as it is to me, you’ll want to keep reading.
Competitivecyclist.com says of this cage that “Elite puts equal priority on style and bottle security, and you get both in spades here. In a marketplace of Taiwanese knock-offs, the Custom Carbon is the only cage we know of that visually stands apart.” All of this was immediately apparent to me upon receiving the cage, as aesthetically it is simply stunning. The clear coat is so shiny that it looks wet, and it took a thorough examination with my tongue to confirm that the cage was indeed dry. And underneath it was the nicest weave I’ve seen since I got a close look at Johan Museeuw’s head. This is not just a bottle cage, I thought to myself. This is an engineering masterpiece.
Of course, like most carbon fiber products these days, the Elite Custom Carbon has very specific torque specs and must be installed with care. I recommend that you leave installation to a professional, which is what I did, since the recommended bolt torque of .0000297 newton-meters is roughly equivalent to a fly alighting on a pudding skin and is not attainable without laser-calibrated instruments. (I took mine to a neurosurgeon at Columbia Presbyterian.) Because I wanted to compare the Elite to my current metal bottle cage (and because the doctor charged me $17,000 for his labor), I installed only one on the downtube and left my old cage on the seattube. As beautiful as the Elite was, I couldn’t help but be skeptical as to whether it was really worth the money, so I figured a good old-fashioned bottle cage duel was the only way to know for sure.
Well, any doubts I had about the Elite were allayed as soon as I slid my bottle out for the first time. If you’ve ever removed a sterling silver Tiffany letter opener from a velvet pouch, withdrawn a handmade sword from its jeweled scabbard, or taken a bottle of Chateaux Margaux from its rack in a musty wine cellar in Provence, you can begin to appreciate what it’s like to pull a plastic bidon from an Elite Custom Carbon cage and take a swig of cleverly-marketed sugar water. And putting the bottle back in was no less sublime. It’s probably not necessary for me to make any obvious comparisons to putting something hard in something soft, but let’s just say that with the Elite it was impossible not to think about it, and as I rode my carbon fiber frame was not the only thing that was stiff yet compliant.
Well, after just one drink I was sold. Nonetheless, in the interest of objectivity I took a drink from my old cage on the seattube. Before the Elite I had never noticed how poorly my old cage functioned, but now grabbing that bottle felt like uprooting a carrot, and putting it back felt like trying to force-feed medication to a housecat. So if you think a bottle cage is just a bottle cage, think again.
The Bottom Line:
Buy it if: You want to feel like King Arthur pulling Excalibur from the rock.
Don’t buy it if: You want to feel like all those other losers tugging vainly on the handle.